(or, how I got curious about linked data)
I was very conscious while working on Community Mission at the wonderful Rewired State DotGovLabs weekend that I was following in big footsteps. I worried the room was thinking “but we’ve done this before” during the presentation, but the debates and discussions did leave me with a conviction that there could be something useful to pursue. It wasn’t my intention to lead on a project, but as a number of those that interested me had an element of missions or to-do lists, I decided to hold back and spend some time focussing on a common database and agreement that could save people a lot of time.
My main motivation to see this happen is that the core elements are not available to me as a community worker and non-coder with all sorts of non-specific missions. All of us are doing a lot of time-consuming work each time we start, whether in development or community organising. We could all save time with this project and we could link our ideas more easily.
Community Mission is not led by technology, but it does highlight the incredible potential of technology to bring us closer together and make access to information far more equal. It responds to needs that are easy to understand and so it may create a gateway into understanding open data and linked data for non-techies. This project would give us some fundamentally important things:
– a memory bank of people, missions and assets, linked to places and themes
– a way of cloning but also adapting missions with a very high level of flexibility
– a way of communicating with each other (and by extension many more linked by digital connectors, while still protecting people’s right to keep their own data and identity private and to use the access channels of their choice
– a way to channel the conflict between big, central aspirations and localisation
I planned a very simple database which could form the basis of a common agreement. Later, reading and reflecting a bit more, I also wondered if it could also form the basis of a common standard which would enable us to work backwards using material that we already have.
If project management data and the endless fragments of ‘stuff’ about places could be collected and linked up to the basic common elements of people, missions and assets, then we would have a great deal of useful data already. I asked last week what we could do with all the conversations we are having digitally now; well, many of them could be mapped to people, missions and assets.
Many developers have done enough of the elements of this project to be able to take it forward. Common ownership, input from a very wide range of organisations and open ways of using the data would be key to the success of this. It needs to stay simple and flexible so that developers and the rest of us can let our imaginations run wild. Remember, I need to be able to use it to for whatever mission I want, of any size; I need to be able to access information, I need to be able to communicate with other people working on the same mission and I have to do it all through whichever platform I use every day because, yes I’m too lazy to visit your website.
To have this in my box of tools-that-don’t-need-me-to-know-code would make me very happy indeed.